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The Hindu
The Hindu
Sandeep Phukan

Analysis | Did overconfident regional satraps who ignored Congress’ central leadership cost the party?

The stunning defeat of the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan not only reflected the failure of the top leadership in being assertive with regard to decision making but also the overconfidence of regional straps.

The contrast is sharper if one compares how the party managed the elections in Telangana with party strategist Sunil Kanugolu, who had earlier successfully worked in Karnataka. 

From gathering feedback on potential candidates to designing the party’s election promises, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) chief Revanth Reddy worked closely with Mr. Kanugolu.

Also Read | Decisive wins: On M.P., Rajasthan, Telangana and Chhattisgarh Assembly election results

In contrast, the heavyweights took independent decisions in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, often ignoring the high command. 

In Madhya Pradesh, State unit chief Kamal Nath took independent decisions. Mr. Nath snubbed Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and refused to get into any alliance despite the SP being a member of the INDIA bloc. 

Similarly, he called off a proposed rally of the INDIA bloc in Bhopal after DMK leader and Tamil Nadu Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin’s controversial remark on sanatana dharma.

Mr. Nath’s comment Digvijaya ke kapde padho (tear Digvijaya’s clothes) to the supporters of an unsuccessful ticket seeker further created an impression of a divide. 

And the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in charge of Madhya Pradesh, Jai Prakash Aggarwal, was replaced by Randeep Surjewala barely months before the elections. 

The party’s campaigning also peaked quite late, with Mr Surjewala organising “Jan Akrosh” [people’s anger] rallies to cover over 200 constituencies in the last two months. The AICC planned as many as 34 public meetings of its top leaders in the last 17 days, sources claimed. These campaigns ran almost parallel to those organised by the State unit, they added.

Lack of resources and a fund crunch also surprised many, especially since Mr Nath is known to be an extremely resourceful leaders with wide-ranging contacts.

Gehlot-Sachin Pilot tussle

In Rajasthan, until the high command brokered a fragile peace pact, the leadership tussle between Ashok Gehlot and former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot dominated the headlines.

Based on the feedback from the ground, the central leadership is said to have favoured dropping many sitting MLAs in Rajasthan but Mr. Gehlot preferred to go with those who stood by him during the July 2020 rebellion by Mr. Pilot.

In Chhattisgarh too, the differences between outgoing Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and senior leader T.S. Singh Deo, were a public affair until the latter was made the Deputy Chief Minister. 

Though the AICC did replace over 20 MLAs with fresh faces to beat anti-incumbency, Mr. Baghel could not effectively counter the allegations of corruption against his government by the BJP.

Also Read | Assembly Election Results 2023: Clear wins in most seats, and close fights in a few | Data

“No less the Prime Minister said in elections rallies that the State is being used as an ATM but we didn’t counter it effectively,” said a senior party leader, worrying about the party’s shrinking footprints.

However, on Monday, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, in a post on X, said the party’s vote share gave them hope.

“This is the reason for hope and revival. Chhattisgarh: BJP 46.3%, INC 42.2%, Madhya Pradesh: BJP  48.6%, INC  40.4%, Rajasthan: BJP  41.7%, INC  39.5%. Judega Bharat, Jeetega INDIA!” Mr. Ramesh said in the post.

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